MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — His West Virginia team won’t go bowling and statistically ranks seventh or worse in the Big 12 in 22 of 29 major offense/defense/special teams categories. Oh, and it suffered the ultimate ignominy of losing to Kansas. By double-digits.
Yet Dana Holgorsen contends the 2013 Mountaineers—currently 4-7—have shown improvement over the 2012 squad that climbed as him as No. 5 in the AP poll before finishing 7-6.
“I think we’re a better football team this year than last year, minus maybe one or two guys,” the coach said Tuesday.
Granted, those one or two guys were monumental difference-makers: the program’s all-time leading passer (Geno Smith) and its all-time leading tackle eluder (Tavon Austin). And we understand that wins-losses aren’t the only metric by which to evaluate a team, though in the course of evaluating a coach, they’re awfully crucial.
Holgorsen’s assertion that this team is better than the last—despite the offensive inconsistencies, the shuffling quarterbacks and the repeated defensive breakdowns—more likely was about finding morsels of progress in an otherwise frustrating season. He can point to improved team chemistry and even added depth, though a rash of late-season injuries left the two-deep thin at several spots.
Yes, it was projected to be a rebuilding year at WVU. Yes, many programs can eke out six wins despite rebuilding pains. And yes, Holgorsen might still be right about this team—it just doesn’t feel very apparent after losing four of five to fall out of bowl contention.
Saying that either Clint Trickett or Paul Millard will start the season finale at quarterback, Holgorsen ruled out Ford Childress after Tuesday morning’s practice.
“It won’t be Ford,” the coach said. “He’s just not ready (though) he could go in and piece it together if we needed to.”
Childress tore a pectoral muscle in a 37-0 loss at Maryland on Sept. 21 and hasn’t played since, experiencing intermittent setbacks with soreness. The redshirt freshman Childress was 1-1 as a starter this season, while Trickett stands 2-4 and Millard 1-2.
Trickett was cleared for contact after sustaining a concussion in the loss to Texas on Nov. 9. The junior also admitted Tuesday to hiding a concussion he suffered against K-State in the first half of a 35-12 loss on Oct. 26.
Holgorsen said Trickett and Millard will split reps this week.
“They’re trying hard. They’re competing. I feel like we can with either one—I really do,” Holgorsen said. “Clint’s proven to where he’s won a couple of Big 12 games. Paul’s proven where he could in there and run the offense effectively if he stays within the scheme.”
In a less-serious moment, Holgorsen joked: “Maybe we’ll just rotate them—try to go every other play. We haven’t tried that yet.”
PUMPING UP THE CYCLONES
Holgorsen called Iowa State “without a doubt, the most competitive 2-9 team in the country. That’s for certain.” Gee, wonder if Paul Rhoads would like that engraved on a trophy.
The Cyclones opened the season by losing to FCS member Northern Iowa and have gone 2-9 overall—those wins coming over Tulsa and Kansas (teams that are a combined 6-16 themselves). Yet coaches always find a way to compliment opponents.
“People can say what they want about how they’re no good, (but) they’ve been in plenty of games,” Holgorsen said.